OLD-SCHOOL DABO SWINNEY KEEPS CLEMSON ON TOP IN ACC
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Clemson coach Dabo Swinney doesn’t use the transfer portal, prefers to promote from within his staff and once said he’d quit coaching if players were paid, which has come to pass under name, image and likeness earnings.
Still, the ACC’s longest-tenured coach, who critics have labeled behind the times, has stayed on top and is seeking is eighth league title in the past nine seasons and ninth overall.
Swinney, starting his 15th year, credits steadiness in building a strong culture that has kept the Tigers out front of the Atlantic Coast Conference.
“Football is a marathon and it’s not a sprint,” said Mickey Conn, Clemson’s co-defensive coordinator. “Sometimes, a sprint’s easy. But if you want to win and have a successful program like Dabo has built here, you’ve got to be in it for the long term.”
And Swinney’s cultivated success in his own way. He brushes aside big picture issues and simplifies his program’s success: “Just got to win. All that stuff is a lot to talk about, but it still comes down to what you do on the field,” he said Thursday at the close of ACC media days.
Clemson figures to get a strong push from rising Florida State when the ACC preseason rankings are released. The teams face each other at Clemson on Sept. 23.
Having the Seminoles back in the league chase may not be good for Clemson, “but it is definitely good for the ACC,” Swinney said, smiling.
It’s been a while since Clemson was pushed in the ACC play. Since Florida State won the league title in 2014, the Tigers have gone 100-13 overall and 66-5 against ACC opponents.
It took Swinney time to develop a powerhouse. Coordinators Chad Morris on offense in 2011 and Brent Venables on defense in 2012 touched off a recruiting boon that included NFL standouts like quarterback Trevor Lawrence, defensive tackles Dexter Lawrence and Christian Wilkins and receiver Tee Higgins.
Tar Heels coach Mack Brown watched Swinney’s long-term build, as both a TV analyst and an ACC rival. He said the mindset at Clemson is staying the course. “They’ve got a plan for each coming year,” Brown said. “They might tweak it a little bit, but they won’t change it.”
Swinney has added only two transfers since 2014, both to bolster experience at quarterback. Neither David Olsen in 2014 nor Hunter Johnson in 2022 played significant roles in games.
Roster spots were at a premium this fall, especially with seven draft-eligible players, including all-ACC defensive tackle Tyler Davis, returning for another college season.
Clemson center Will Putnam said knowing your coaches aren’t seeking to supplant you through the portal is a big selling point at Clemson.
“As a player, it’s definitely respected,” Putnam said. “Really trusting guys who buy into him. He rewards that by giving them the opportunity they deserve.”
Swinney was a vocal opponent of paying players, going as far as to say he’d quit the game if it came to pass. These days, Swinney, who’ll make $10.75 million plus incentives this season, believes NIL opportunities have been a “net good” for the sport.
The problem, Swinney said, is “there’s no order, there’s no structure. It’s different rules at different places. The biggest thing I would like to see is just some continuity.”
Swinney can change his style when he feels it’s necessary. He subbed in reserve quarterback Cade Klubnik for ineffective starter DJ Uiagalelei early in the ACC championship game. Klubnik sparked the Tigers to the 39-10 victory after trailing 7-0.
Uiagalelei transferred to Oregon State with Klubnick this year’s starter.
Swinney, known for promoting from within, made the out-of-character move of dismissing former Tigers quarterback and offensive coordinator Brandon Streeter after last season and luring Garrett Riley of TCU to take over.
That’s not so unusual, Swinney said. He benched starting quarterback Kelly Bryant in favor of NFL No. 1 overall pick Lawrence as a freshman in 2018.
As far as adding Riley to lead the attack, Swinney said he had no relationship with Venables before hiring him after the 2011 season. Venables defensive schemes helped the Tigers six ACC and two national championships.
“Sometimes, you have to have a different voice from time to time,” Swinney said.
MICHIGAN RB BLAKE CORUM (KNEE) INSISTS HE’S READY TO GO
Michigan running back Blake Corum said Thursday that he has been cleared to play football this fall.
The star back hedged his comments a bit but he feels the left knee is recovered from surgery and expects to be on the field when the Wolverines host East Carolina on Sept. 2.
“I had a doctor’s appointment the other day, and I believe he cleared me,” Corum said at Big Ten media days at Indianapolis. “I might have to double-check to make sure that was the last appointment, but I’m cleared.
“But I think I’m good. Now it’s just being smart, going into camp and doing whatever I have to do to make sure this team is in the best position to win and attack the season.”
Corum rushed for 1.463 yards and 18 touchdowns last season. He injured the knee against Illinois on Nov. 19 and effectively missed three games. He badly tore the meniscus, sprained the MCL and sustained a bone bruise.
Corum tried to play with a brace against Ohio State the next week and was done after two carries. He later missed the Big Ten championship game victory against Purdue and the College Football Playoff semifinal loss to TCU.
Corum rushed for 108 yards against Illinois for his eighth straight 100-yard outing. His season high was 243 against Maryland on Sept. 24.
After finishing seventh in Heisman Trophy balloting, Corum considered leaving for the NFL. But he decided to return and focus on getting the knee back to full strength before the 2023 college football season commences.
He said he recently reached the point where he knew the knee was no longer an issue.
“A couple weeks ago, that’s when I realized that most of my speed was coming back,” Corum said. “And then I started feeling the burst. There was definitely a point in time where I was like, ‘OK, I like where this is heading.’”
The Michigan backfield is loaded with Donovan Edwards also back in the fold. Edwards rushed for 991 yards and seven scores last season.
Edwards became the bell cow back after Corum’s injury and gained 520 yards and three touchdowns on 70 carries over the final three games.
Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh expects big seasons from both players. He’s especially happy that Corum will be ready to go.
“I think Blake’s in a great place,” Harbaugh said Thursday in Indianapolis. “Everything he thought of, everything he visualized in terms of where he would be right now. He’s well trained, well thought out, and he’s in a great place.”
MINNESOTA COACH P.J. FLECK DEFENDS PROGRAM AGAINST ALLEGATIONS HE CALLS ‘BASELESS’
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck brushed off allegations that he runs a toxic program on Thursday, saying they mostly come from players and employees who have been dismissed or departed on their own.
“These allegations are baseless,” Fleck said during Big Ten media days at Lucas Oil Stadium. “We have full support of our athletic director, Mark Coyle, and our university leadership. This is a similar story that gets peddled every single year, and the majority of the players have been dismissed or removed from our football team.”
Multiple former players and employees have been quoted anonymously in reports, including by Front Office Sports, examining the program’s culture, including an accusation that Fleck has interfered with medical protocols to get injured players to return earlier than anticipated.
“We also have around a half-dozen anonymous reporting avenues within our football program that players can go to if they have an issue,” Fleck said. “And our athletic director, Mark Coyle, gives his cellphone number to every single football player to call him if they have any issue. To this date, there have been zero claims on this issue. Zero.”
Fleck said he knows where most of the complaints have originated.
“Oh absolutely, players talk,” he said. “Players have a lot of pride in what and how we do it. Sometimes, the negative voices are the loudest voices.
“Look at our team’s response, that’s going through that culture and that program right now. … You’ve got to make some really hard decisions. You stand firm on what you believe in. You’re as transparent as you can possibly be. Our administration, they know what we do and how we do it. They’re there all the time.”
Fleck is entering his seventh season with the Gophers. He is 44-27 with four bowl victories.
“My energy needs to be on the 2023 football team, and that only, and not the baseless allegations,” he said.
Although he sounded like a coach who wanted to discuss the subject, Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh declined to offer any details about an NCAA investigation that is expected to result in a suspension this season.
“As you probably already know, I’m not allowed to talk about any aspect of that ongoing situation,” said Harbaugh, who is accused of lying about recruiting violations. “I’m with you. I’d love to lay it all out there. I’ve got nothing to be ashamed of. But now is not that time. That’s about all there is to say about that.”
He declined to respond to five more related questions during an interview session that lasted 38 minutes.
Harbaugh is expected to serve a four-game suspension under a settlement between the school and the NCAA, The Associated Press has reported.
MOVE RIVALRY GAME?
A day after Ohio State coach Ryan Day suggested there should be a conversation about possibly moving the annual rivalry game with Michigan from the last regular-season date, Harbaugh didn’t seem too interested in changing a tradition that’s existed since 1935.
“We’ll play that whenever it’s scheduled,” Harbaugh said of the rivalry that started in 1897. “We know we’re going to play it every season at least once. I don’t have a particular opinion on when it should be played. Right now, it’s played that last game of the season. I think everybody is used to that. That’s part of the Thanksgiving tradition. That’s when we’ll expect it.”
The Big Ten’s shift to no divisions with a 12-team playoff in 2024 increases the likelihood of Michigan and Ohio State playing in back-to-back weeks, and possibly a third time if both qualify for the College Football Playoff.
“People see it from different points of view,” Day said. “I’m glad we still have the rivalry game. I do think we should consider when we play it, just because you may end up playing it back-to-back weeks … which would be awkward. I know we need to consider the tradition, but I think it’s worth a conversation on when.
“I think we shouldn’t move it, but I think it’s worth talking about. The game could not have an impact on a whole bunch, in terms of if both teams are in the Big Ten championship game already, then could it minimize the game? That’s my concern.”
COLORADO LEAVING PAC-12 AND RETURNING TO BIG 12 IN 2024 FOLLOWING UNANIMOUS VOTE BY BOARD OF REGENTS
BOULDER, Colo. (AP) — Colorado is leaving the Pac-12, and the Big 12 is ready to welcome the Buffaloes back to the conference they left a dozen years ago.
Colorado’s board of regents voted 9-0 in a special remote meeting Thursday to approve the conference switch in 2024.
“The landscape of collegiate sports is ever-evolving, and the University of Colorado Boulder has determined the Big 12 is the best future fit for our athletic teams,” school President Todd Saliman said.
“After careful thought and consideration, it was determined that a switch in conference would give CU Boulder the stability, resources, and exposure necessary for long-term future success in a college athletics environment that is constantly evolving,” CU Chancellor Philip DiStefano said in a joint statement with Athletic Director Rick George.
“The Big 12’s national reach across three time zones as well as our shared creative vision for the future we feel makes it an excellent fit for CU Boulder, our students, faculty, and alumni,” DiStefano said, adding, “These decisions are never easy and we’ve valued our 12 years as proud members of the Pac-12 Conference. We look forward to achieving new goals while embarking on this exciting next era as members of the Big 12 Conference.”
While some of the regents expressed disappointment about leaving the Pac-12, they said the shifting sports landscape left CU no option but to rejoin the conference where they were a founding member in 1996.
The Buffs actually joined the Big Six conference in 1947 and remained with the expanded league for 63 years as it eventually grew into the Big 12.
Colorado will join the Big 12 in 2024 and becomes the third school to leave the Pac-12 in the last year, joining UCLA and USC, which are joining the Big Ten next year.
Big 12 presidents and chancellors voted unanimously Wednesday night to accept Colorado as a new member, clearing the way for the school to leave the Pac-12 and rejoin its former league, a person with knowledge of the meeting told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the Big 12 was not making its expansion plans public. ESPN first reported the vote.
Colorado still needs to go through a formal process on its campus in Boulder and officially accept membership.
Pac-12 presidents and chancellors, athletic directors and Commissioner George Kliavkoff were scheduled to convene Thursday to discuss the next moves for the conference, two people with knowledge of the meeting told AP on condition of anonymity because the conference is not making its internal moves public.
Big 12 Commissioner Brett Yormark has spoken for months about his desire to expand the conference and add schools in the Mountain and Pacific time zones. A second person familiar with the Big 12’s expansion aspirations, also speaking on condition of anonymity, told AP the school and league have been in contact for more than a month about a potential departure from the Pac-12.
Colorado’s departure could lead to more defections from the Pac-12, which has seemed vulnerable to more poaching after losing USC and UCLA to the Big Ten and with negotiations for a new media rights contract dragging on. Current deals with ESPN and Fox expire after this school year.
The Los Angeles schools are in their last go-round as Pac-12 members this year. With contractual agreements running out, the Buffaloes are positioned to rejoin the Big 12; the league last year came to an agreement with ESPN and Fox on a six-year extension worth more than $2 billion that runs through 2030-31.
Pac-12 Commissioner George Kliavkoff had said at football media days last week that the 10 remaining conference members were committed to staying together. Text messages to Kliavkoff and Colorado athletic director Rick George were not returned.
Colorado was an original member of the Big 12 in 1996, and joined the Pac-12 in 2011. The Buffaloes’ football team has had only one winning record over a full season since joining the Pac-12, and went 1-11 last year, leading to the hiring of former NFL star Deion Sanders.
The Big 12 has 14 members this year, but Texas and Oklahoma are leaving for the Southeastern Conference next year. The second person familiar with the Big 12’s discussions said the conference would ideally like to expand to 16 schools with Arizona, Arizona State, Utah and Colorado all coming over from the Pac-12 to create a Western wing of the league.
Big 12 leadership has also discussed the possibility of trying to add UConn, which won the men’s NCAA basketball tournament earlier this year, and Gonzaga, a basketball powerhouse that does not have a football team, the person said. The Big 12 has been the strongest men’s basketball conference in the country over the last few seasons, and Yormark has said he believes the sport could be a source of untapped value in future media rights deals.
Although the Big 12 landscape is different than it was when Colorado was last a member, the Buffaloes have several rivalries to renew.
“Iowa State is thrilled to welcome the University of Colorado back into the Big 12 Conference,” Iowa State Athletic Director Jamie Pollard said. “The Cyclones and Buffaloes enjoyed a spirited rivalry for more than 60 years in the Big 7, Big 8 and early years of the Big 12, so we are excited to resume competing with them next year.
“This great news for the Big 12 Conference would not have been possible without Commissioner Yormark’s vision as well as the hard work by former Commissioner (Bob) Bowlsby in bringing BYU, UCF, Cincinnati and Houston on board as members in 2023-24. The Big 12 brand has never been stronger, and I believe great days are ahead for our conference.”
CAN THE PAC-12 SURVIVE? CONFERENCE OF CHAMPIONS FACES MURKY FUTURE AFTER COLORADO BOLTS FOR BIG 12
The conference of champions appears to be in crisis.
Colorado’s announcement Thursday that it will return to the Big 12 comes a little more than a year after Southern California and UCLA said they were ditching the Pac-12 to join the Big Ten. It leaves the league that has won more NCAA championships than any other facing an uncertain future.
Still, without a media rights contract to replace ones that expires next summer, Pac-12 Commissioner George Kliavkoff keeps promising that all will be well. It is becoming harder to sell that no news on a deal is good news.
Colorado’s exit alone is not a death blow for the Pac-12. Losing a school that has been fielding one of the worst Power Five football programs for most of the last decade is recoverable, even with new coach and retired NFL star Deion Sanders grabbing headlines in Boulder.
However, there is no way to spin this latest hit as anything but a loss for a conference that has been the power center of West Coast college sports for decades. Colorado is a newbie, but USC’s membership dates to 1922, UCLA’s to 1928. The roots of the Pac-12 date to 1915 and its sports alumni include such names as Jackie Robinson, John Elway, Marcus Allen, Reggie Miller, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Jenny Thompson, Bill Walton and Barry Bonds.
To survive, the Pac-12 will almost surely try to add new member schools.
The questions now: Can the Pac-12 stop bleeding membership? And if not, does it trigger conferences beyond the Big 12 to target its schools? Will CU’s move trigger another wide-ranging round of realignment?
“I don’t believe it does” said former Fox Sports executive Bob Thompson. “A lot of that comes down to how fast the Big 12 wants to expand. I don’t see the SEC, the Big Ten, the ACC doing anything at this point.”
Under previous Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren, the Big Ten still had eyes out west, with Oregon and Washington having the most appeal of the remaining Pac-12 schools. But Warren is gone now and his replacement said the Big Ten isn’t eager to expand more.
“All the direction I’m getting from leadership … is to focus on USC and UCLA. We have a lot of work to do there,” new Commissioner Tony Petitti said at Big Ten football media days earlier this week.
The continuing threat to the Pac-12 is primarily the Big 12, despite Kliavkoff’s dismissals (“The truth is we have bigger fish to fry,” he said last week in Las Vegas at football media day.)
Pac-12 presidents and chancellors, athletic directors and Kliavkoff were expected to meet Thursday to discuss next moves for the conference, two people with knowledge of the meeting told AP on condition of anonymity because the conference was not making its internal discussion public.
Brett Yormark has outmaneuvered Kilavkoff since being named Big 12 commissioner a day before USC and UCLA announced they planned to switch conferences. He has envisioned a 16-team league that covers all time zones.
The Big 12 jumped the Pac-12 in line last year and grabbed a deal with ESPN and Fox that probably could have been the Pac-12’s. While Kliavkoff was trying to figure out a way to close the revenue gap on the Southeastern Conference and the Big Ten, Yormark realized survival was at stake for the other Power Five conferences.
The Big 12 replaced the star quality brands of Texas and Oklahoma with quantity and reach (BYU, Houston, UCF and Cincinnati). The Big 12 will never catch up at the bank to the SEC and Big Ten, but it has more stability and harmony than the beleaguered Pac-12 and anxious Atlantic Coast Conference.
“What CU did is ensure their future. Whether the Pac-12 implodes now or whether the Pac-12 implodes in 2030 or whether the Pac-12 stays together, CU is set,” Thompson said.
Adding Arizona, Arizona State and Utah from the Pac-12 to join Colorado would make Yormark’s vision a reality, but those schools are still publicly committed to their current conference.
Arizona President Robert Robbins said in June the preference is to remain in the Pac-12, but until he knows exactly what a media rights deal pays, nothing is certain.
“We’re not going to get a Big Ten deal. We’re not going to get an SEC deal,” Robbins said then. “I’ve never thought that winning the bronze medal was a great aspirational goal. But if we win a bronze medal, I think we’d all declare victory.”
Thompson said as ESPN and other traditional networks deal with a changing financial model because of shrinking cable TV subscribers, they have become more selective and frugal when it comes to buying the right to broadcast games.
Still, less traditional networks for sports like the CW and Ion could provide a home and enough revenue to keep what’s left of the Pac-12 together for at least one more deal, Thompson said.
“They’ve just got to get a deal done,” he said.
The best-case scenario for the Pac-12 is that it finally lands a TV contract comparable to the Big 12’s (about $2 billion over six years) and the remaining members stay put.
Swapping out Colorado for, say, San Diego State, which awkwardly tried to position itself to exit the Mountain West in 2024 earlier this month, would mitigate the damage. The Aztecs and SMU have already been on the Pac-12’s radar to replace USC and UCLA.
The worst-case scenario? The Pac-12 losses all the four corner schools to the Big 12, the Big Ten is motivated to reverse course and add some combination of Oregon, Washington, Stanford and California. If not all of them. Instead of the Pac-12 absorbing Mountain West schools, the Mountain West could go on the offensive.
The Pac-12 dates back 108 years with the formation of the Pacific Coast Conference. Over a century, it went from the Pac-8 to the Pac-10 to the Pac-12, accumulating more than 500 NCAA championships .
That prestigious legacy is no guarantee of its future.
BIG TEN’S FOUR NEW COACHES TOOK DIVERGENT PATHS TO NEW-LOOK WEST DIVISION
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Luke Fickell got his first taste of leading a Big Ten program as Ohio State’s interim coach in 2011. This fall, he’s back with the more traditional title of head coach — at Wisconsin.
Former Baylor coach Matt Rhule is back in the college fray, too, this time at Nebraska.
They are the highest-profile members of the Big Ten’s four new coaches, all of whom took jobs with West Division teams in a league they revere.
“We could take the whole time on ‘why Wisconsin,’” Fickell said on the second and final day of the Big Ten’s annual football kickoff in Indianapolis. “It has a lot to do with being back in the Big Ten. It has to do with the respect I’ve always had playing against and preparing for Wisconsin, understanding and recognizing what I assumed the culture was like from afar. It felt like something that would be really, really in my wheelhouse.”
The Badgers certainly believe Fickell is the perfect fit to complete the mission Barry Alvarez started way back when Fickell was a highly-coveted football and wrestling prep star in Ohio.
While the number of new coaches hired is hardly an aberration in major college football, the journeys these men made are strikingly different.
Fickell became a star at Ohio State, making a record 50 consecutive starts at nose guard before logging one injury-plagued NFL season. He returned to his alma mater in 1999 as a graduate assistant and then spent two years at Akron before returning to Ohio State in 2002. He stayed there until Cincinnati took a swing at the former Buckeyes interim coach, who eventually led the Bearcats to the CFP Playoffs.
Now, on Oct. 28, Fickell will welcome those same Buckeyes to his new home in Madison.
“I know there will be storylines and things like that,” he said. “All I can say is that I hope we can be in a position to make it as big a game as it can be, and I think that’s a driving force for me and for us.”
Rhule was an NFL darling four years ago after turning around the Temple and Baylor programs, but was fired by the Carolina Panthers after five games last season. He finished with an 11-27 record.
Still, Cornhuskers athletic director Trev Alberts was impressed enough with the resume to give Rhule another shot, just like Nebraska’s experiment with Bill Callahan in 2004.
While Rhule’s goal is to restore the prestige to a program that hasn’t played in a bowl game since 2016, he believes the NFL experience has made him become a better coach.
“I think for me on a personal note, every job I’ve taken before it worked out, so you kind of always think it’s going to work out,” Rhule said. “I learned a lot about leadership by leading in tough times. It’s easy to lead when things are going well, but when you’re about to get fired and the whole stadium is going ‘Fire Sipple, Fire Sipple’. You know what I learned? I’m tough and my family is tough.”
Nobody is in a tougher or more unexpected spot than Northwestern interim coach David Braun. The two-time national championship winning defensive coordinator was hired by Pat Fitzgerald in January and promoted earlier this month when Fitzgerald was fired in the midst of a hazing scandal.
Braun, who grew up in Wisconsin, is a first-time head coach and he and his wife, Kristin, are expecting their third child this weekend as the start of camp looms. His job is keeping him busy, too.
“If this was January, we would hire a defensive coordinator immediately,” Braun said Wednesday. “But I plan on calling the defense because I want to make sure as many people as possible can stay in their positions. I plan on hiring a defensive assistant, but it’s going to take a special person who is going to say, ‘I’m going to leave my job and run into the fire.’”
Ryan Walters, meanwhile, has taken the most traditional route.
The former quarterback was moved to safety at Colorado and immediately began working his way through the assistant ranks when his playing career ended in 2008. After finishing the 2009 season as a student assistant with the Buffaloes, he made stops at Arizona, Oklahoma, North Texas, Memphis and Missouri before Illinois coach Bret Bielema hired him as defensive coordinator in 2021.
Now he’s heading across the state line to take over defending Big Ten West champ Purdue with a new quarterback and new staff in a league he knows well. And, he can’t wait to get started.
“It wasn’t like I got a job and I’m trying to figure it out,” he said. “It was I got a job and and I’m executing a plan. So to have a plan in place and to have it be executed in real time and exceed your expectations has been really gratifying.”
COLLEGE SPORTS REALIGNMENT IS A CHAOTIC, HEAD-SPINNING TREND IN WHICH CHANGE THE ONLY CONSTANT
College sports in the U.S. has seen scores of schools change conference affiliation over the past century, but the pace has quickened over the past three decades. It is no longer a surprise to see storied programs leave their longtime conference home in search of more stability and more revenue in the college athletics arms race. A look at football membership in the Power Five and the Group of Five, largely dating to the launch of the Big 12 in 1996:
1996 (9): Clemson, Duke, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Maryland, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Wake Forest, Virginia.
2023 (14): Boston College, Clemson, Duke, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Louisville, Miami, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest
1996 (11): Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Northwestern, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue, Wisconsin.
2023 (14): Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue, Rutgers, Wisconsin.
2024 (16): Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue, Rutgers, Southern California, UCLA, Wisconsin.
1996 (12): Baylor, Colorado, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech.
2023 (14): BYU, Baylor, Cincinnati, Central Florida, Houston, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, TCU, Texas, Texas Tech, West Virginia.
2024 (13): BYU, Baylor, Cincinnati, Central Florida, Colorado, Houston, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma State, TCU, Texas Tech, West Virginia.
1996 (10): Arizona, Arizona State, California, Oregon, Oregon State, Southern California, Stanford, UCLA, Washington, Washington State.
2023 (12): Arizona, Arizona State, California, Colorado, Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford, Southern California, UCLA, Utah, Washington, Washington State.
2024 (9): Arizona, Arizona State, California, Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford, Utah, Washington, Washington State.
1996 (12): Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, LSU, Mississippi, Mississippi State, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vanderbilt.
2023 (14): Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, LSU, Mississippi, Mississippi State, Missouri, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas A&M, Vanderbilt.
2024 (16): Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, LSU, Mississippi, Mississippi State, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Texas A&M, Vanderbilt.
2013 (10, first season): Central Florida, Cincinnati, Connecticut, Houston, Louisville, Memphis, Rutgers, SMU, South Florida, Temple.
2023 (14): Charlotte, East Carolina, Florida Atlantic, Memphis, Navy, North Texas, Rice, SMU, South Florida, Temple, Tulane, Tulsa, UAB, UTSA.
1996 (6): Cincinnati, Houston, Louisville, Memphis, Southern Mississippi, Tulane.
2023 (9): Florida International, Jacksonville State, Liberty, Louisiana Tech, Middle Tennessee State, New Mexico State, Sam Houston State, UTEP, Western Kentucky.
2024 (10): Florida International, Jacksonville State, Kennesaw State, Liberty, Louisiana Tech, Middle Tennessee State, New Mexico State, Sam Houston State, UTEP, Western Kentucky.
1996 (10): Akron, Ball State, Bowling Green, Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Kent State, Miami (Ohio), Ohio, Toledo, Western Michigan.
2023 (12): Akron, Ball State, Bowling Green, Buffalo, Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Kent State, Miami (Ohio), Ohio, Northern Illinois, Toledo, Western Michigan.
BIG WEST/WAC/MOUNTAIN WEST
1996 (Big West): Boise State, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico State, North Texas, Utah State.
1996 (WAC): Air Force, BYU, Colorado State, Fresno State, Hawaii, New Mexico, Rice, San Diego State, San Jose State, SMU, TCU, Tulsa, UNLV, Utah, UTEP, Wyoming.
2023 (MWC): Air Force, Boise State, Colorado State, Fresno State, Hawaii, Nevada, New Mexico, San Diego State, San Jose State, UNLV, Utah State, Wyoming.
2001 (7, first season): Arkansas State, Idaho, Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisiana-Monroe, Middle Tennessee State, New Mexico State, North Texas.
2023 (14): Appalachian State, Arkansas State, Coastal Carolina, Georgia Southern, Georgia State, James Madison, Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisiana-Monroe, Marshall, Old Dominion, South Alabama, Southern Mississippi, Texas State, Troy.
1996 (11): Arkansas State, Army, Central Florida, East Carolina, Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisiana-Monroe, Louisiana Tech, Navy, Northern Illinois, Notre Dame, UAB.
2023 (4): Army, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Notre Dame.
WAKE FOREST’S DAVE CLAWSON SAYS MULTIPLE PLAYERS RETURNED DESPITE TAMPERING BY OTHER SCHOOLS
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson said Thursday that six to eight of his players returned to the Demon Deacons despite tampering efforts by other schools hoping to persuade them to transfer with promises of lucrative endorsement deals.
He said the offers to his players ranged in value from roughly $150,000 to around $500,000.
“I love the way (the players) handled it,” Clawson said during the final day of the Atlantic Coast Conference’s preseason media days. “They didn’t try to leverage, negotiate. They just wanted me to know as the head coach that these things are now going on in college football, which I knew.
“But when you get the firsthand examples of it, of ‘This school offered me this much to go there at this time,’ those are very real things.”
Coaches have talked broadly about tampering by schools trying to poach their rosters as the transfer portal allows for free player movement while players can also cash in with name, image and likeness (NIL) endorsement opportunities. Yet coaches rarely go into details beyond alleging it’s happening.
“You add (NIL) and transfer portal and the collision of the two and tampering, those are things that make it more difficult to be a head coach,” North Carolina coach Mack Brown said earlier Thursday.
Clawson didn’t identify the schools he said approached his players, saying only that none are in the ACC.
“One school did it with three different players,” Clawson said with a chuckle. “It was great: ‘No, no, no.’ And the money offers kept getting better.”
Tampering would seem to be a particular concern for a program like Wake Forest, which doesn’t load and reload with five-star recruits. Instead, Clawson’s program is about long-term development and retention of players who have gotten stronger and honed their skills over time — typically with a redshirt year — while building up game reps before assuming a waited-their-turn larger role.
The formula helped the Demon Deacons reach the ACC championship game in 2021.
“I give our players credit,” Clawson said. “They let us know after the fact. None of them came to me and said, ‘Coach, I have this offer to go here. What can the collective do?’
“They didn’t do that. … All those guys stayed because they want to get Wake Forest degrees and they have a good relationship with their teammates. And you know, I would like the narrative to be a positive one.”
UNC QB DRAKE MAYE HAS A GOOD RESOURCE FOR ADVICE. IT’S HIS PREDECESSOR NOW IN THE NFL
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina star quarterback Drake Maye figures he has the perfect resource to help him navigate the challenges ahead in a season of high expectations.
Speaking during the Atlantic Coast Conference’s preseason football media days, Maye said he has been in contact with current NFL quarterback Sam Howell as a sounding board.
“Just trying to soak up all I can from him because he’s lived it and I want to be in the position he’s at,” Maye said.
Maye is being mentioned as a Heisman Trophy candidate and future pro passer for a team aiming to contend for an ACC title.
Two years ago, Maye was a true freshman while Howell was in a similar position. That ended up being a bumpier-than-expected season for UNC, which started ranked No. 10 in the AP Top 25 but finished just 6-7.
Maye said he asked Howell — now set to be the starter in Washington — what he would’ve liked to have done better in that final year. Howell suggested making sure to take care of non-football demands early in a time with college athletes able to profit with endorsement deals using their name, image and likeness (NIL).
“The best thing that I got … was taking care of all the off-field stuff like NIL,” Maye said. “Obviously agents are in the world now. It’s taking care of that stuff before the season, getting that done and not worrying about that during the season — kind of having that not on your mind as you’re going out there for a snap against Duke or something.”
Clemson has brought back past offensive coordinator Chad Morris to its staff, though at a discount.
Morris is working as an analyst this fall after being the Tigers’ first million-dollar assistant before leaving to become SMU’s coach after the 2014 season. He first came to Clemson in 2011 and directed the high-speed attack that helped the Tigers reach the national elite.
Head coach Dabo Swinney called Morris “a very cheap, high qualified guy that’s hanging around.” Swinney said Morris will work with the offense and defense and “really just add a lot of value from another lens.”
Boston College coach Jeff Hafley admits his team’s rash of injuries put players out of the field way ahead of schedule last year. Hafley said 37 of 44 players of the Eagles’ two-deep depth chart were first or second-year players.
“Were some ready to play? Maybe not,” Hafley said after a three-win season that included calling on multiple true freshmen.
Hafley is hoping the reward comes this season.
“There’s excitement and there’s energy and our guys are getting older,” Hafley said. “That’s how we have to win at BC.”
North Carolina State linebacker Payton Wilson is eager to hit the field again — and stay healthy after injury concerns the past two years.
The 6-foot-4 redshirt junior was an all-conference performer in 2020 after leading the league with 108 tackles. But, already coming off shoulder surgery, Wilson hurt his other shoulder in the second game of 2021 and missed the rest of the year.
Wilson also missed time early last season before finishing with 83 tackles. He said battling through those issues have given him a more mature mindset.
“That mentality that comes with that and just understanding that nothing is guaranteed in this life and you got to give your 100% every percent of the time,” he said.
While the “ACC Kickoff” event concluded Thursday, the league will release voting results for the preseason team picks on Tuesday followed by the preseason all-ACC team a day later.
OREGON COACH DAN LANNING AGREES TO AN EXTENSION THROUGH THE 2028 SEASON
EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — Oregon and head coach Dan Lanning have agreed to a contract extension that will extend his deal through the 2028 season.
The Oregon Board of Trustees unanimously approved the terms of the contract Thursday. Lanning’s new deal will pay him a total of $45 million in base salary over six years. There are incentives in the contract that will add an additional year if Oregon wins 10 games at any point of the contract with a max of three years added on.
Lanning, 37, led Oregon to a 10-3 record, including a victory in the Holiday Bowl, in his first season in charge of the Ducks in 2022.
Lanning would have to pay a $20 million buyout if he leaves for another job prior to the completion of the contract.
“Dan has exhibited tremendous leadership and an unwavering commitment to providing the best possible experience for our football student-athletes,” Oregon athletic director Rob Mullens said. “This joint commitment is one component of a bold vision for the future of Oregon football that will allow our program to continue to compete at the highest level and on the cutting edge of innovation and excellence.”
COLLEGE FOOTBALL PREVIEW: TEXAS LONGHORNS
2022 Record: 8-5 overall, 6-3 in Big 12
Head Coach: Steve Sarkisian, 3rd year: 13-12,
Texas is back … for one more year.
Understand what it means – beyond the derisive snark – when the “Texas is back” thing kicks in every time the team comes up with a decent win. Also understand that Texas wouldn’t necessarily be “back” yet even if it pulls a 2022 TCU and gets to the national title game.
Under Mack Brown, Texas won ten games or more from 2001 until 2009, and nine games or more from 1999 to until ’09. It was a major player for every top recruit, it was in every championship, and it had a freakish way of coming as close as you can to playing for a ton of national titles without actually doing it, outside of an all-time performance by 10 in the Rose Bowl to close out the 2005 season.
For you kids out there, think current Ohio State over the 2000s. That’s what Texas being “back” would look and feel like.
For now, though, the program has to finally snap out of this funk. This is when Texas needs to realize that it’s Texas and it’s supposed to be awesome at college football – and it needs to do it this year when coming up with something massive is more attainable.
Not to conference shame, but Baylor and TCU are the last two Big 12 champions. Georgia and Alabama are the last two SEC champions.
So if Texas is really going to do this – it can win the SEC Championship next year with orange and white confetti raining down and I still won’t 100% buy that 1) it’s in the SEC, and 2) didn’t figure out a deal with the Big Ten – the definition of “back” has to change.
Texas isn’t winning ten games or more for nine straight seasons in the SEC. Bless my heart if it does – and there’s zero excuse for it not to – but no, that’s not happening on a regular basis. But it has to hit get to double-digits once in a while.
Going forward in an expanded College Football Playoff with 12 teams, the goal is to finish in the top 11. Winning a conference championship might be cute and all, and we’ll see how much the byes really matter, but SEC teams that go 10-2 will almost always get in.
That means Texas has to win ten regular season games with the training wheels still on.
Texas hasn’t had a pre-bowl ten-win campaign – the 2018 team went 10-4 with a Sugar Bowl win over Georgia – since the 2009 season when it got to the BCS Championship. (By the way, Iowa State, Kansas, and Texas Tech are the only other Big 12 teams – including the four newbies – to not have a ten-win regular season since 2009.)
Now for the start of the positives – this team has the makeup and talent to finally break the unforgivably mediocre streak. Talent-wise, momentum-wise, vibe-wise, this should be the best Longhorn team in a long, long time – and not just because it signed Arch.
8-5 – what it went last year – isn’t good enough for this program, but it lost in the final moments in a fight against Alabama, lost by three at Texas Tech, by seven in a firefight with Oklahoma State, 17-10 to TCU, and 27-20 in a good bowl game against Washington. The team was 2-5 in one score games, it has as many if not more high-end playmakers on both sides of the ball than anyone in the Big 12, and …
2024? Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi State, Texas A&M, Vanderbilt, and of course, Oklahoma – those are the teams on the new SEC-Texas schedule. Oh yeah, and there’s a trip to Michigan, too.
However it needs to be considered, Texas, be back this year.
Texas Longhorns Preview: Offense
The offense should be more explosive and even more dangerous down the field with a loaded group of receivers, three potential superstar quarterbacks, and everyone of note expected to be back up front. The O should be relatively injury-proof as long as there isn’t a rash of problems on the line, and there’s no reason to finish fifth in the Big 12 in total offense and third in scoring. There’s too much pop to be so inconsistent, but …
There’s no replacing Bijan Robinson. More on this in the Key to the Season section, but when Texas runs, Texas wins, and it doesn’t have the Atlanta Falcon starting running back and his 1,580 yards and 18 touchdowns around anymore. Jonathan Brooks, Jaydon Blue, and Keilan Robinson should form a strong rotation with Brooks about to explode partly because …
The starting five up front should be the best – at least most experienced – in the Big 12. Tackles Kelvin Banks and Christian Jones lead the way, but there’s potential All-Big 12-caliber seasons coming from all five spots on a line that was the second best in the Big 12 in sacks allowed. The depth is a tad thin, but there’s young talent waiting in the wings.
The receiving corps will be devastating. Xavier Worthy caught 60 passes for 760 yards and nine scores, Jordan Whittingham made 50 grabs, and TE Ja’Tavion Sanders is in the Mackey Award mix coming off a 54-catch, five-grab season. But it gets better.
Georgia’s Adonai Mitchell is coming in to be a part of the fun, and returning from a torn ACL that cost him all of last season is former Wyoming transfer Isaiah Neyor, a flash of lightning who average 20 yards per grab with 12 scores in 2021 with the Cowboys. And so it comes down to …
There’s no wrong answer here in the quarterback battle. Quinn Ewers is likely the main man to start the season, but he has to be more consistent. The NFL tools are there – he hit Washington for 369 yards in the bowl loss, and he was picking apart Alabama before he got hurt – but his struggles against Oklahoma State and TCU were costly in the losses.
Arch Manning should get a year to be around the system, but yeah, he’s for real beyond the last name. And then there’s the wild-card in all of this. Maalik Murphy is a 6-5, 235-pound rock with the size, arm, and upside to be deep in the hunt for time.
Texas Longhorns Preview: Defense
The defense doesn’t have quite the same level of talent as the offense, but it’s full of veterans from a group that finished second in the Big 12 in total and scoring defense and was great at getting into the backfield. There were a few blown tires in losses to Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, and Washington, and there needs to be more of a pass rush to go along with the tackles for loss, but it was the first time since 2014 the defense allowed fewer than five yards per play.
The secondary might be the most interesting position group on the team other than quarterback. It has returning veterans in safeties Jerrin Thompson and Jahdae Barron – he’s always all over the field – and corner Ryan Watts is great, but there need to be more big plays. Those three combined for four of the team’s ten interceptions. Wake Forest transfer Gavin Holmes will be thrown into one corner spot to handle the speed receivers, and big-hitting Arkansas transfer Jalen Catalon steps in at safety.
If the new guy is really that good, this linebacking corps will be strong. Jaylan Ford is an All-Big 12-caliber tackling machine with a team high 119 stops in the middle, and David Gbenda is around for his fifth year of work, but the spotlight is on Anthony Hill, a superstar recruit who might not have received the national hype of Arch, but should make more of a Year One impact.
The line has enough experience to be more of a rock. The tackle combination of T’Vondre Sweat and Byron Murphy will soon be in the NFL, Barryn Sorrell should be a more dangerous pass rusher, and a slew of underclassmen should play big roles around a slew of big older parts.
Texas Longhorns College Football Preview 2023: What Will Happen
Good things happen when Texas runs the ball well. The team was 2-4 when it threw for over 250 yards, but 8-2 when averaging over three yards per carry. It was 0-3 when it didn’t get to three a pop. More to the point about control, Texas was 5-0 when running for 205 yards or more and 3-5 when it didn’t. How much does this matter?
Since 2017, Texas is 22-0 when running for 205 yards or more.
Texas Longhorns Top Transfer, Biggest LossWR Adonai Mitchell in from Georgia, EDGE Ovie Oghoufo gone to LSU. Texas brought in a slew of dangerous transfers – S Jalen Catalon probably should be the one to highlight here – but Mitchell has the upside to be the best target in a loaded receiving corps. A great recruit for Georgia, the 6-4, 195-pounder caught 38 passes with seven scores in his two seasons – he was hurt for a chunk of last year – but the ability is there to do a whole lot more if he can stay healthy.
The Longhorn defensive line is fine, but it would’ve been nice to have around a sixth-year veteran who made 95 stops with 13 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks after transferring in from Notre Dame. Now Oghoufo is off playing for his former coach Brian Kelly as part of the LSU rotation.